He finds out the truth when he is sixteen.
His father is sitting at the table, his head in his hands, and his mother is sobbing, pain and regret etched onto her brow.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he demands, something like bile rising in his throat. His mother only sobs louder at that and turns away, as though too ashamed to even face him. His father only closes his eyes.
Trying to block out the world. Trying to block out the truth.
"Why didn't you fucking tell me?" he shouts.
"Tam," Mum- Ellen- pleads. "Tam, I'm so sorry, you have no idea how much I regret it, you have no idea how much I would take back everything I said- I'm responsible, I'm responsible, I'm so sorry that you never knewyour own mother."
Rage builds in his chest, and the bile burns- but almost simultaneously, an image flashes in his mind, as crisp and clear as lightning- and a little voice. Mummy's eyes. Sad eyes. A woman, holding him, rocking him, loving him.
He shakes convulsively.
She mistakes his meaning, and holds her hands out earnestly.
"Tam," she cries, her voice cracking and hoarse from tears. "Tam, I'm so sorry. I love you, but I would give you up, I would give your father up, I would give everything up to change what I did. I am so ashamed. Tam!"
He shakes his head.
Mum, he tries to say, but no words come from his mouth. Mum. I love you. Mum.
But he is afraid that the poison will pour out instead, and he doesn't want to hurt her. There has been enough pain in this house. But it has been contained, always contained, so small, always hidden-
They never told you.
You have your mother's eyes.
It makes sense. It all makes sense.
The woman with the dark hair and the large eyes, the sad songs and the dusty rooms; now he knows who she is, the woman he sometimes sees, fading away with the wind. He's asked Dad about that woman, and he has been told a story about a woman in Vietnam who had 'looked after' Tam for a while. He'd always wondered why, but Dad's never explained. He just says that she 'looked after' Tam. =
Why? he'd wanted to ask.
Now he knows.
The woman who bore him, who gave her life for him, while Dad had stayed away, stayed in America-
He can't control his arm. It swings out of his control and-
When the glare clears, he finds himself staring at a dark, large dent. For a moment, confusion swells in his mind like the spectres of years of unanswered questions. Then he realises he is staring at what is- was- the wall.
The shaking subsides slightly, but not enough. (Never enough.)
"You," he says to his father, wondering dimly how his voice can be so controlled. "You. Get outside. I gonna punch you. And I don't want Mum to see it."
Dad looks up at him, the self-hatred evident in his eyes. It doesn't make Tam feel any better.
You let my mother die. You didn't tell Mum anything. You let my mother die. And then you never told me. Never.
"Tam," he says in a low voice. "Tam I loved your mother."
Rage like splitting pain bursts through his head.
"NO YOU FUCKING DIDN'T!" Tam yells. "YOU DIDN'T FUCKING TRY TO FIND HER LIKE SHE TRIED TO FIND YOU! AND YOU DON'T LOVE MY MUM, NOT NOW, YOU NEVER DID!"
His father looks struck to the core.
"Kim was my life, Tam," he forces out, through the shudders and the trembles. "You- you have- no right-"
Tam laughs wildly.
"Not that 'sun and moon' rot again. I've heard it once and it makes me sick. No- I'm not talking about Kim. I mean Mum. The woman sitting there in the corner, the one who won't even look at you, she's so ashamed. Did you ever fucking love her?"
Somewhere behind him, he hears a gasp and a fresh wave of sobs.
I'm the reason you don't have a mother.
Mum. The one person who's ever been honest with him and not fed him lies, cloyingly sweet lies that choke in his throat and twist knives in his gut.
Dad doesn't reply. A glassy, slack-jawed expression crosses his face and it infuriates Tam all the more. He drags Dad out of the chair, shoves him against the wall. (A part of him is surprised he is able to do it. Dad is so much stronger than him, was in the army- where he met my mother- but he looks vulnerable against the wall, and in this moment, Tam hates him all the more for it.)
"Did you fucking love her?"
But Dad can't respond, can't reply, and Tam knows- he knows.
So he swings as hard as he can, and when the blood starts pouring from Dad's nose, he doesn't even care.
"You fucking liar!" he roars, only half aware of what he is saying. Years of memories fly by- gusts of wind, broken porcelain figures, Mum, crying in the kitchen, Dad, Dad- Dad and his despicable lies. "You made me live a lie!"
He turns his head, rapidly- too rapidly- and sees Ellen (Mum)- reaching out to him, halfway across the room, her eyes wild with fear.
Cautiously, slowly- almost afraid to see what he is sure will greet his eyes- he looks back at his right hand. It is clenched in a first and raised, ready to strike again. It is inches from Dad's face.
The anger dissipates, so rapidly he wonders if it was even there. But it must have been, for there are lines of red streaking Dad's face, and his nose looks slightly misshapen as he slumps against the wall. Fear rises, grips him from within.
"Dad?" he says, uncertainly. Dad blinks, his eyes glassy with pain.
And Tam sees it, the glossy porcelain figure from the kitchen window, the one he pushed. It falls upwards in an arc, catches the light, and tumbles down, down- down- into a thousand pieces, almost before it hits the floor.
She's not your mother! Your parents don't want you!
Touching his nose, just to make sure- I've got Daddy's nose, you're lying!
Dad's nose. That damn nose that let him know that something, somewhere, within all those lies, the stories that didn't make sense- within them, somehow, was a drop of truth.
He touches his own nose.
The straight raised shape, with that tiny bump in the middle-
He touches Dad's nose.
Dad winces in pain.
Broken. Everything is broken.
His arms drop to his side, and the tears come. He cannot control them- they sting and flood his sight, and he can't see where they land. He can't control the convulsions that seize his body, nor the huge gasps that wrack his chest and leave him desperate for more air.
We are all broken.
A figure approaches from his left, a sheet of dark hair, swinging as she crouches-
And she enfolds him in a hug, just like she did when he was younger, rocking him back and forth.
"Hush, Tam," she whispers, and he wonders that she can speak. "Hush, Tam."
So he closes his eyes and rests in her embrace, as she cradles him from the world (from himself).
When the shaking subsides, he reaches out blindly for Dad, and grasps Dad's hand, too.
And they sit like that, broken and wounded; sit together in the shadows, as the dying sunlight sinks beneath the trees.
A/N: This is what happens when I deactivate my facebook account and block my access to youtube so that I can actually focus on writing practice essays for my final exams.
Anyway, this isn't beta-read, and I'm pretty sure there are many improvements that can be made. A part of me wonders if it is too repetitive, if the language is anachronistic for a sixteen year-old boy in the 80s, and whether this even deserves to be up on the net. But it is up, and I am too lazy- and busy with other things- to spend too much time editing it.